Catalina is in the south-central region of Arizona, in the Tucson metro area of Pima County. Nearly all of the county’s population is clustered in and around Tucson, a major commercial and academic center. Catalina is directly north of Tucson, just beyond the Catalina Foothills and Oro Valley. It’s a census-designated place with a population around 8,500. While Catalina may not be the center of all the action, it’s a popular snowbird destination from November to April, particularly among the senior population. The area is largely rural, but slowly evolving with a trickle of developments.
There’s more to do along the boundaries of Catalina than there are in the heart of town. Catalina’s northern boundary is Oracle Junction, which is home to the Acadia Ranch Museum, Oracle State Park and Peppersauce Cave, a limestone cave with a mile of mapped passages. To the east is the Coronado National Forest, which covers an area of about 1.78 million acres spread throughout mountain ranges. Catalina’s southern boundary is Catalina State Park, where visitors can enjoy music concerts, camping, and miles of equestrian, birding and hiking trails across 5,500 acres. If you head west far enough, you’ll get to Dove Mountain Resort, which is a lavish destination in the Tortolita Mountains, where guests can enjoy a world-class spa, recreational sports and even an avant-garde art scene. The most-noted attraction in Catalina itself is the Romero Ruin archeological site. It’s where visitors can see the remains of a Hohokam Indian village that was occupied between AD 500 and AD 1450.
Tucson is a well-worthy day trip for those visiting Catalina. Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona, after Phoenix. Tucson already has a thriving college-town atmosphere centered around the University of Arizona. You’ll find a number of vintage shops, nightclubs and restaurants near campus. But there are also eclectic attractions in the city, such as Old Tucson Studios, an Old West movie set turned theme park. There’s Saguaro National Park, which features saguaro cacti and ancient petroglyphs. Rialto Theater is a renovated 1919 vaudeville theater that’s the best place to catch live music shows. And the Reid Park Zoo features over 500 animals from the places such as the Asian rainforest and African savannah. For more big-city action, Phoenix isn’t too far. At around 110 miles, it’s less than a two-hour’s drive from Catalina. In Phoenix, you’ll find high-end spa resorts, designer golf courses and desert beauty in a metropolitan setting. It’s not called the “Valley of the Sun” for nothing. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Phoenix is a snowbird’s dream destination.
For accommodations of the more traditional sort (hotels, motels, inns), neighboring Tucson will have more variety. The best deals you’ll find in Catalina are rentals through third party sites. There might be opportunities for camping, as well. Catalina Inn is an option within the town’s boundaries. It’s considered one of the newer hotels in the area, and has 49 rooms to accommodate guests. The next closest lodgings are located in Oro Valley, where you’ll find a range of options such as the Holiday Inn Express, Fairfield Inn and Suites, and Hilton Tucson Resort.
Sun Tran is the public transportation system that serves the Tucson metro area. The bus service has stops in Catalina, at Oracle/Golder Ranch Drive. You can take line 401 towards Golder Ranch to get to Catalina. You can also take the 401 Ina Road route to get out of town. You’ll have to make a transfer at Oracle, but you’ll find a few routes into Oro Valley and Tucson.
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